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Wednesday focus: The workplace

Employees with previous work experience bring valuable knowledge and skills to their new jobs, but some of what they learned may actually hurt their work performance.

A study of telephone call center employees is one of the first to suggest that previous work experience isn’t all positive for new employees. Workers may keep some old habits and ways of doing things that hurt performance in their new roles.

“Organizations pay a premium for workers with job experience that will allow them to just step in and start contributing immediately,” said Steffanie Wilk, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

“But what employers don’t realize is that some of what their employees learned in previous jobs will end up being a negative,” Wilk said.

The researchers conducted the study with data from 771 employees and job applicants of two call centers for a major U.S. insurance firm. They examined the employees’ job performance evaluations and separate ratings of the employees’ work-related skills and knowledge.

The researchers compared these performance and skills evaluations with the employees’ prior work histories and experience at the current firm, to find any relationships.

As expected, the results showed that prior work experience at other firms did lead to higher levels of skill and knowledge, which led to better performance reviews at the insurance company.

However, once the researchers took into account the higher levels of skill and knowledge brought from former jobs, previous experience actually led to lower performance at the insurance company.

In other words, the positive effects of knowledge and skill brought by experienced employees were being at least somewhat balanced by negative factors.

Wilk and her colleagues believe that workers brought old habits and ways of doing things from their previous jobs that didn’t necessarily work at their new jobs.

From wire reports

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